Hausen – grim and grimy German chiller casts a dark shadow

Figcaption Hausen Grim And Grimy German Chiller Casts A Dark Shadow
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

I t’s dark, and rain pours down thickly, as wan teenager Juri (Tristan Göbel) and his ursine father Jaschek (Charly Hübner) arrive at the tower block they’ll soon regret calling home, in the opening scene of the German chiller Hausen (Sky Atlantic). Prepare for horror of the dripping, oozing, inky kind, set in a cursed building where the taps seem to be watching you, the condensation on the windows has a threatening aura and mould is a supporting character. It’s grim, grimy, cobwebbed and dank. Very dank.

Jaschek is the flats’ new caretaker, tasked immediately with fixing a heating system clogged with tar that seems to choose which way it flows. That leaves Juri to wander the corridors, stumbling across creepy Shining-like children and cackling vagrants who act as if they know something. We, however, know little for an episode and a half, as Hausen very slowly builds an atmosphere designed to bring on the night-time heebie jeebies.

Eventually we meet the other residents, all of them nervous, wild-haired souls with filthy faces, including a couple who haven’t summoned the energy to name their newborn baby and can’t afford to buy him formula. The dad is addicted to some sort of hallucinogenic snuff, the source of which he stays coy about: from that we have the bones of a story, and by the end of the second hour – Sky wisely debuted Hausen as a double bill, so as not to leave viewers adrift after the coldly baffling first instalment – it can be deduced that there is no malevolent presence haunting the apartment block. Rather, the block itself is the monster. The show’s love of sinewy tangles and suppurating ick give it a body-horror vibe, but this is building-horror.

It must be a multistorey metaphor, but for what? Depression, with the black slime on the walls like a black dog on the shoulders of the building’s inhabitants? Poverty, since the tenants have not only been abandoned in squalor, but also appear to be stuck in a system that actively tries to stop them escaping? The collapse of society, because people who need help struggle to find a neighbour who doesn’t listlessly shut the door in their face? Or simply grief? It seems to be the last of those when Hausen confirms what we suspected from the first minute: Juri’s mother has recently died, and Jaschek’s decision to take the janitor job is an attempt at a fresh start that’s turned out rotten. There are so many things that need mending.

Something will, it is to be hoped, give Hausen an emotional anchor to attach to what otherwise feels like a random carnival of disgust. These initial episodes spend a lot of time trying to create images that will snag their hooks in our minds, but most of them don’t because they’re not quite alien enough to be disturbing without us understanding why they’re there. Nobody these days is going to be spooked by a vision as familiar as a rat mozeying along a ventilation shaft, and the most successful scenes – read: the most degrading and awful – turn on reveals that are more grindingly bleak than memorably horrific.

There is, however, hope in the form of how confident Hausen is in maintaining its dream logic and sludgy aesthetic. It gives off a sense of knowing what it’s doing but taking too long to do it, rather than wandering forward with no plan. Juri and Jaschek’s relationship is promising, too, with its hints towards a tale where extreme adversity hastens the process of recognising that the parent no longer knows better than the child: Jaschek’s old-school practical nous is no use in the new reality he and his son must live with.

Hausen needs to start providing better payoffs, and quickly. Because unlike the people who live in the flats, we’re not trapped. We need a reason to stay.

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